By Lahav Harkov 07/28/2011

MK slams rising water prices, says gov’t agreed to subsidize more water for disabled people months ago, but has yet to act upon the decision.

A bill allowing the Knesset Finance Committee to regulate water prices passed in its preliminary reading on Wednesday, after the coalition withdrew its opposition to the move.

The bill, initiated by Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), brings back the parliamentary regulation on water prices that was removed in 2006, when a government agency was formed for that purpose. According to the new bill, the Finance Committee will have to authorize the price recommended by the water agency.

“How long can we allow this embarrassment?” Gafni asked in the plenum, in reference to rising water prices. He added that the government agreed to subsidize more water for disabled people months ago, and has yet to act upon its decision.

The bill was rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but coalition MKs were given freedom to vote as they chose. It passed in its preliminary reading with 35 MKs in favor and none opposed, and will be prepared by the Knesset Finance Committee for further readings.

A Kadima source said the switch in the coalition’s stance was made by coalition Chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) after the largest opposition party announced it would support the bill, making it likely to pass despite the government’s objections.

After the bill passed, Elkin said, “We are all sick of bureaucrats’ inflexibility. If the experts who were supposed to protect all sectors of the population, including the disabled and other, weaker populations, are unable to do their job, regulation will be returned to the Knesset.”

A Likud source said that should the bill be rejected in its later readings, the government would move to increase water subsidies for weaker sectors of the population.